Although ticks are commonly thought of as insects, they are actually arachnids like scorpions, spiders and mites. All members of this group have four pairs of legs as adults and have no antennae. Adult insects have three pairs of legs and one pair of antennae. Ticks are among the most efficient carriers of disease because they attach firmly when sucking blood, feed slowly and may go unnoticed for a considerable time while feeding. Ticks take several days to complete feeding.
Ticks have four life stages: egg, six-legged larva, eight-legged nymph and adult. After the egg hatches, the tiny larva (sometimes called a “seed tick”) feeds on an appropriate host. The larva then develops (molts) into the larger nymph. The nymph feeds on a host and then molts into an even larger adult. Both male and female adults find and feed on a host, then the females lay eggs sometime after feeding.
Ticks wait for host animals from the tips of grasses and shrubs (not from trees). When brushed by a moving animal or person, they quickly let go of the vegetation and climb onto the host. Ticks can only crawl; they cannot fly or jump. Ticks found on the scalp have usually crawled there from lower parts of the body. Some species of ticks will crawl several feet toward a host. Ticks can be active on winter days when the ground temperatures are about 45o Fahrenheit.
There are two groups of ticks, sometimes called the “hard” ticks and “soft” ticks. Hard ticks, like the common dog tick, have a hard shield just behind the mouthparts (sometimes incorrectly called the “head”); unfed hard ticks are shaped like a flat seed. Soft ticks do not have the hard shield and they are shaped like a large raisin. Soft ticks prefer to feed on birds or bats and are seldom encountered unless these animals are nesting or roosting in an occupied building.
Although at least 15 species of ticks occur in Illinois, only a few of these ticks are likely to be encountered by people: American dog tick, lone star tick, blacklegged (deer) tick, brown dog tick and winter tick.
The Adult Female, Adult Male, Nymph and Larva of ticks most likely to be found on people in Illinois
Your St. Clair County Health Department participates in the I-tick program. For more information on the I-tick program:
What is The Tick App about?
In few words, Lyme (and other tick-borne) disease prevention and citizen science. The Tick App is a smartphone application (or web app for computer) that shows you how you can avoid ticks and also invites you to share information with scientists about your tick exposure and what kinds of locations and activities are associated with them. In addition, you can submit photos of ticks for timely species identification by an expert. The goal is to develop better strategies to prevent tick bites and tick-borne diseases.
The Tick App began in response to public health concerns about Lyme Disease, and the blacklegged tick which can carry the bacterium that causes Lyme Disease. However, the Tick App provides data on several other common tick species that can carry disease. So, the data will increase our knowledge of all tick-borne diseases, not just Lyme.
How can I get the app?
You can download The Tick App https://thetickapp.org/
If you don’t have a smartphone, or would like to participate on your desktop computer, you can fill out the same questionnaires here https://thetickapp.org/web-app/
Please note: This is a research study. Thus, you will need to provide consent to the research and complete an entry survey (which takes 5 -10 minutes). You will then receive a weekly to monthly message to start your `daily log`. The daily log should take about a minute to complete. It asks if you or a household member encountered a tick, what you did that day and how COVID influenced your outdoor activities. When you start the daily log, you will receive a daily reminder until you complete 15 logs. In addition, you will have the option to complete `tick reports`, to log your tick encounters and when you submit a picture, we will respond to you by email what tick we think it is. Lastly, if you allow location services, the app will use your location to provide you with current information on blacklegged `tick activity` in your area. Furthermore, location services will help researchers understand how time spent in different areas is associated with tick exposure.